Interview of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with Radio Europe 1 and TF1 TV channel
4 June 2014
In the run-up to his visit to France, Vladimir Putin gave an interview to Radio Europe 1 news programme author and
frontman Jean-Pierre Elkabbach and anchor of the evening news on TF1 TV channel Gilles Bouleau. The interview was
recorded on June 3 in Sochi.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Good afternoon Mr President. Good afternoon, President Putin. Thank
you very much for agreeing to give this exclusive interview to Radio Europe 1 and the TF1 TV channel at your Sochi
residence. On Thursday evening you will meet with President Francois Hollande in the Elysee Palace, and the next day
you will attend the D-Day 70th Anniversary Commemoration. This will be your first trip to the beaches of Normandy, and
you will be the first Russian President to attend the ceremony. What do you as a Russian citizen think about being
invited to this exceptional ceremony?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This will be an important event for Europe and the rest of the world. We will pay tribute to
those who prevented Nazism from enslaving Europe, and I believe that Russiaís attendance is a momentous event. The
thing is that Russia and the anti-Hitler coalition countries, including France, were allies in that struggle for
freedom, and my country played a vital and maybe even the decisive role in defeating Nazism. But weíll never forget the
French Resistance fighters and the French soldiers who fought side by side with us on the Soviet-German front, which is
also called the Eastern front. I believe that this should not only remind us about our history, but also help to
promote our relations now and in the future.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Of course, you and Russia will take your rightful place on the
beaches of Normandy. You lived in the Soviet Union until you were 40, you saw its collapse, and now you are actively
contributing to Russiaís revival. What would you like to see happen now? What are your goals? Is Russiaís strategy a
path of dialogue or expansion and conquest?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, a policy of expansionism and conquest has no future in the modern world. Weíre
confident that Russia can and should be a partner with its traditional allies, in the broad sense, now and also in the
This is what we want, and this is what we will keep working towards. We see no other way to develop relations with
our neighbours and all other countries.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you want to defend the Russian nation or to become the symbol of
Russian nationalism and the Russian Empire? We remember what you said about the Soviet Unionís dissolution. You said
that it was the worst geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. You also said that those who do not regret the
collapse of the Soviet Union have no heart, and those who want to restore it have no brains. You have brains. What do
you propose: Russian nationalism, or the restoration of the Russian Empire to its previous borders?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We will not promote Russian nationalism, and we do not intend to revive the Russian Empire.
What did I mean when I said that the Soviet Unionís collapse was one of the largest humanitarian Ė above all
humanitarian Ė disasters of the 20th century? I meant that all the citizens of the Soviet Union lived in a union state
irrespective of their ethnicity, and after its collapse 25 million Russians suddenly became foreign citizens. It was a
huge humanitarian disaster. Not a political or ideological disaster, but a purely humanitarian upheaval. Families were
divided; people lost their jobs and means of subsistence, and had no means to communicate with each other normally.
This was the problem.
QUESTION (via interpreter): And what about the future?
Do you want to restore the empire within the former borders or do you want to continue developing your country
within your own borders?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We want to develop our country within our own borders, of course. But Ė and this is very
important Ė like other countries in other parts of the world, we want to use modern policies to improve our competitive
advantage, including economic integration. This is what we are doing in the post-Soviet space within the Customs Union
and now also within the Eurasian Union.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Mr Putin, we are now talking about why a neighbouring country,
Ukraine, is being torn apart by war. There is no other word for it. Now pro-Russian forces want to breach Ukraineís
borders. Who can stop them and what is your policy?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I wouldnít call them either pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian. They are people who have certain
rights, political, humanitarian rights, and they must have a chance to exercise those rights.
For example, in Ukraine governors are still appointed by Kiev. After the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev last
February, the first thing the new authorities tried to do was deprive the ethnic minorities of the right to use their
native language. This caused great concern among the people living in eastern Ukraine.
QUESTION: You did not let this happen but are you saying that we are on the verge of another Cold War?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I hope we are not on the verge of any war. Second, I insist that people Ė wherever they live
Ė have their rights and they must be able to fight for them. Thatís the point.
QUESTION: Is there any risk of a war? Now, as we see tanks on their way from Kiev, many people in France are
asking this question. Were you tempted to send troops to eastern Ukraine?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is an interview, which implies short questions and short answers. But if you have
patience and give me a minute, I will tell you how we see it. Hereís our position. What actually happened there? There
was a conflict and that conflict arose because the former Ukrainian president refused to sign an association agreement
with the EU. Russia had a certain stance on this issue. We believed it was indeed unreasonable to sign that agreement
because it would have a grave impact on the economy, including the Russian economy. We have 390 economic agreements
with Ukraine and Ukraine is a member of the free trade zone within the CIS. And we wouldnít be able to continue this
economic relationship with Ukraine as a member of the free trade zone. We discussed this with our European partners.
Instead of continuing the debates by legitimate and diplomatic means, our European friends and our friends from the
United States supported the anti-constitutional armed coup. This is what happened. We did not cause this crisis to
happen. We were against this course of events but after the anti-constitutional coup Ė letís face it, after allÖ
QUESTION: But now we see so much tension in politics. Yet despite this, you will be in Normandy speaking
about peace while Barack Obama keeps urging Europe to arm itself.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, we must always talk about peace but we should understand the causes and nature of the
crisis. The point is no one should be brought to power through an armed anti-constitutional coup, and this is
especially true of the post-Soviet space where government institutions are not fully mature. When it happened some
people accepted this regime and were happy about it while other people, say, in eastern and southern Ukraine just wonít
accept it. And it is vital to talk with those people who didnít accept this change of power instead of sending tanks
there, as you said yourself, instead of firing missiles at civilians from the air and bombing non-military targets.
QUESTION: But, Mr President, the United States and the White House claim they have evidence that Russia
intervened in the conflict, sent its troops and supplied weapons. They claim they have proof. Do you believe that?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Proof? Why donít they show it? The entire world remembers the US Secretary of State
demonstrating the evidence of Iraqís weapons of mass destruction, waving around some test tube with washing powder in
the UN Security Council. Eventually, the US troops invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hanged and later it turned out
there had never been any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You know, itís one thing to say things and another to
actually have evidence. I will tell you again:† no Russian troopsÖ
QUESTION (via interpreter): Are you saying the US is lying?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There are no armed forces, no Russian Ďinstructorsí in southeastern Ukraine. And there never
QUESTION (via interpreter): So you do not want to annex Ukraine and you never tried to destabilise the
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We never did that. The Ukrainian government must now sit down and talk with their own people
instead of using weapons, tanks, planes and helicopters. They must start the negotiating process.
QUESTION(via interpreter): The new Ukrainian president was elected on May 25 through a democratic
vote. Do you recognise Mr Poroshenko as a legitimate president?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Iíve already told you and will say it again: we will respect the choice of the Ukrainian
people and we will cooperate with Ukrainian authorities.
QUESTION (via interpreter): In other words, if you meet him on 6 June on the beaches of
Normandy, and if President Hollande helps to make this meeting possible, will you shake hands with him? Will you talk
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, I donít plan to evade anyone. President Hollande kindly invited me as the
representative of Russia to attend this commemoration, even though the event it will commemorate was tragic. I was
pleased to accept his invitation, and Iím grateful to the President for inviting me. There will be other guests, and
Iím not going to avoid any of them. I will talk with all of them.
QUESTION (via interpreter): But will you meet with Poroshenko? You said you would only work
with him on the condition that he would not totally yield to US influence.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I didnít say that he shouldnít yield to US influence. He is free to accept any influence he
wants. Ukrainians voted for him, and he is free to develop a policy. If he chooses to accept anyoneís strong influence,
let him. But I wouldnítÖ
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you recognise Ukraineís sovereignty and its neutral stance with
respect to relations between Russia and the West?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, we recognise its sovereignty. Moreover, weíd like Ukraine to act as a sovereign
state. Joining any military bloc or any other rigid integration alliance amounts to a partial loss of sovereignty. But
if a country opts for this and wants to cede part of its sovereignty, itís free to do so. Regarding Ukraine and
military blocs, this is what worries us, because if Ukraine joins, say, NATO, NATOís infrastructure will move directly
towards the Russian border, which cannot leave us indifferent.
QUESTION: Mr President, Russian troops annexed Crimea recently. Will you ever give it back?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Itís a delusion that Russian troops annexed Crimea. Russian troops did nothing of the kind.
QUESTION:† But Crimea has been included on the map of Russia, the kind of maps we used in school. Itís part
of Russia now. What was it, annexation or reunification? Which word should we use?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If youíll let me finish, I think youíll see what I mean.
Russian troops were in Crimea under the international treaty on the deployment of the Russian military base. Itís
true that Russian troops helped Crimeans hold a referendum on their (a) independence and (b) desire to join the Russian
Federation. No one can prevent these people from exercising a right that is stipulated in Article 1 of the UN Charter,
the right of nations to self-determination.†
QUESTION: In other words, you will not return Crimea [to Ukraine]? Crimea is Russia, is that it?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: In accordance with the expression of the will of people who live there, Crimea is part of the
Russian Federation and its constituent entity.
I want everyone to understand this clearly. We conducted an exclusively diplomatic and peaceful dialogue Ė I want to
stress this Ė with our partners in Europe and the United States. In response to our attempts to hold such a dialogue
and to negotiate an acceptable solution, they supported the anti-constitutional state coup in Ukraine, and following
that we could not be sure that Ukraine would not become part of the North Atlantic military bloc. In that situation, we
could not allow a historical part of the Russian territory with a predominantly ethnic Russian population to be
incorporated into an international military alliance, especially because Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia. I am
sorry, but we couldnít act differently.
QUESTION (via interpreter): So, Francois Hollande has invited you to France, to Paris and
Normandy. You know him very well. Can you move further forward, and can you describe your relations as
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, I think so.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you think so, or are you sure?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Iíve always thought so. I see no reasons to think otherwise. We have very good interstate
relations, but we have much to do yet to promote our economic ties.
But our personal relations have always been trust-based, which helps in work as well. I hope it will stay this
QUESTION (via interpreter): You are talking about trust-based relations Ė both in defence and the
economy. You have paid over a billion euros for two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships, and Russian naval officials
are to visit Saint-Nazaire in a few days. Have you given them special permission to go to France?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I believe we are living in a civilised world and we will all continue to fulfil our
obligations and contractual commitments. Iíve heard a lot of talk about these ships going to Russia and some people
believe that Russia shouldnít get them. You know, here in Russia we had a lot of opposition to this contract. France is
entitled to decide against selling the ships, but in that case we should get out money back. This would mean that out
countries wonít have an opportunity to develop ties in the defence sector Ė but overall we are ready to expand our
cooperation and even to place new orders, if our French partners are interested.††††
QUESTION (via interpreter): Despite external pressure, you have asked France to supply these assault
ships Ė and if France does it you may place other orders as well, right?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We expect our French partners to fulfil their contractual obligations, and if
everything goes as we agreed, we will not rule out the possibility of further orders Ė and not necessarily in naval
shipbuilding; they may concern other sectors as well. Overall, our relations in this area are developing well, and we
would like to continue strengthening them Ė in aviation, shipbuilding, and other sectors. We have successful
cooperation experience in space exploration, at the Guiana Space Centre near Kourou.†††††
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you think France is a sovereign and independent state whose opinion is
respected? What do you think of Germany? You speak with Angela Merkel in both Russian and German, while FranÁois
Hollande doesnít speak Russian and you donít speak French. Do you have a common language of communication?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The fact that I donít speak French and Mr Hollande doesnít speak Russian is not a barrier for
us. It does not prevent us from speaking a common language, and we understand each other well even via an
Speaking of the level of sovereignty, I will say it again Ė any country that becomes a member of a military alliance
gives away some of its sovereignty to a supranational body. For Russia, this would be unacceptable. As for other
countries, it has nothing to do with us. They have to decide such matters for themselves. In this regard, I think of
the Gaullist tradition and General Charles de Gaulle, who protected Franceís sovereignty. I think this deserves
respect. And thereís another example: FranÁois Mitterrand, who spoke of European confederation, with Russia as its
member. I think this opportunity still exists and we will have it in the future.
QUESTION (via interpreter): My next question concerns the United States. You will meet with Barack
Obama in a few days, you will sit a few metres away from him. But he doesnít seem to be willing to speak to you. What
will this meeting be like and how will relations develop between the worldís richest country and its largest country?
How can you avoid speaking to each other when thereís a real need for this since the war is not too far off?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, youíre exaggerating about the war being not far off. You seem to be feeling aggressive.
Whatever gave you this idea, and why are you determined to frighten us all? As for...†
QUESTION (via interpreter): Because Ukraine is near Russia.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: So what?
QUESTION (via interpreter): And this is where the war is going on. When he mentioned the war, he said
it is not far off.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: There is a punitive operation launched by Kievís government against the countryís own
citizens. It is not a war between states, it is something entirely different. As for...
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you think it should be stopped immediately?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think Mr Poroshenko, who has no blood on his hands so far, has a unique chance to halt this
punitive operation now and start a dialogue with people in southeastern Ukraine.†††
As for my relations with Barack Obama, I have no reason whatsoever to believe he is not willing to talk to the
President of Russia. But ultimately, it is his choice. I am always ready for dialogue, and I think that dialogue is the
best way to bridge any gaps. We have been in contact until now, we have talked on the telephone regularly.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Russia and the United States are experiencing some problems. Are these
problems between two powers or between two people, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Problems between countries always exist, especially between such big countries as Russia and
the United States. There have always been some issues, but I donít think we should go to extremes. At any rate, it
wouldnít be our choice. Iím always willing to talk to any of my partners, including President Obama.
QUESTION (via interpreter): So you are willing to talk and you regret what is happening? But donít you
think the United States is trying to surround Russia, to make you weaker as a leader and perhaps isolate you from the
world? You are being very diplomatic now but you know the facts.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Facts? Youíve said it yourself: Russia is the biggest country in the world. It would be very
difficult to surround it, and the world is changing so fast that it would basically be impossible, even in theory.
Of course, we can see attempts by the United States to pressure their allies by employing their obvious leadership
in the Western community, in order to influence Russiaís policy.
Russiaís policy is based solely on its national interests. Of course, we take the opinions of our partners into
account but we are guided by the interests of the Russian people.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Mr President, it is very convenient that you are meeting with Mr Obama on
June 6. Perhaps, it would be worse if you were meeting with Hillary Clinton. Only a few days ago, she said that what
Russia is doing in Eastern Europe resembles what Hitler was doing in the 1930s.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Itís better not to argue with women. But Ms Clinton has never been too graceful in her
statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even
in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, itís not because they are strong but
because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Women must be respected, of course, and Iím sure you respect them. Do you
think she went too far? There is a lot of mockery and cartoons in the media Ė including those showing you. What was
your first reaction? Were you angry? Did you want to get back at her or laugh? We have never seen you laugh.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Someday I will indulge myself and we will laugh together at some good joke. But when I hear
such extreme statements, to me it only means that they donít have any valid arguments. Speaking of US policy, itís
clear that the United States is pursuing the most aggressive and toughest policy to defend their own interests Ė at
least, this is how the American leaders see it Ė and they do it persistently.
There are basically no Russian troops abroad while US troops are everywhere. There are US military bases everywhere
around the world and they are always involved in the fates of other countries even though they are thousands of
kilometres away from US borders. So it is ironic that our US partners accuse us of breaching some of these rules.
QUESTION (via interpreter): But you have taken some decisions regarding your defence budget.
Are you as President taking any special decisions on security and defence now, because the general environment is more
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Regarding the defence budget. Iíd like to say, for referenceí sake, because only the analysts
know this, that the defence budget of the United States, which we talked about only yesterday, is larger than the
combined military budgets of every country in the world Ė every country Ė combined. So whoís pursuing an aggressive
As for our [defence] budget, it has hardly grown in terms of percent of GDP, barely by one-tenth of a percent. But
we want to rearm our army and navy based on modern, advanced technology, by reducing quantity and improving quality. We
have a relevant rearmament programme, and it was not adopted yesterday or in response to the Ukrainian crisis. It has
been our policy, which we will continue to implement.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Mr President, Syrian leader Bashar Assad has been re-elected
president without much effort. Can you influence him? Can you ask him to order his army to stop its atrocities, to stop
fighting their own people?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: All sides are guilty of atrocities there, but primarily the extremist organisations that are
thriving in Syria. We are mostly worried aboutÖ
QUESTION (via interpreter): Religious, Islamic [organisations]Ö
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Öthose organisations that are directly connected with Al Qaeda. There are many of them there,
which no one tries to deny any longer. Itís a general fact. But we are mostly worried that the wrong action could turn
Syria into another Afghanistan, a completely uncontrollable spawning ground for the terrorist threat, including for
European countries. All the terrorists who are operating there now would eventually move to other countries, including
QUESTION (via interpreter): We donít quite understand why you, Vladimir Putin, the man who
wants to modernise Russia, support a person who is killing his own people, who is covered in their blood. How can this
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Iíll explain very simply and clearly, and I hope that the majority of the French people who
are watching and listening to this interview will understand me. We very much fear that Syria will fall apart like
Sudan. We very much fear that Syria will follow in the footsteps of Iraq or Afghanistan. This is why we would like the
legal authority to remain in power in Syria, so that Russia can cooperate with Syria and with ours partners in Europe
and the United States to consider possible methods to change Syrian society, to modernise the regime and make it more
viable and humane.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Iíd like to ask you about your country, Russia. How would you
describe its current political regime? Some describe it as a democracy, while others argue that Russia is so huge that
it needs an iron hand. How does Vladimir Putin define the Putin regime?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: The current regime is not connected to any particular person, including the incumbent
President. We have common democratic state institutions, although they reflect Russiaís needs. What are they? The
overwhelming majority of Russian citizens tend to rely on their traditions, their history and, if I may say so, their
traditional values. I see this as the foundation and a factor of stability in the Russian state, but none of this is
associated with the President as an individual. Moreover, it should be remembered that we only started introducing
standard democratic institutions recently. They are still in the process of evolving.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Can a person stand in opposition to the authorities in Russia
without fear of losing his ties and reputation, without being punished?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have many opposition parties, and we have recently liberalised the procedure for
registering political parties. We have dozens of parties that participate in municipal and regional elections.
QUESTION (via interpreter): But is it possible to be a personal opponent of Vladimir Putin without
exposing oneself to risks?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you listen to some of our radio stations and watch some TV shows, I assure you, you are
unlikely to find anything similar to this kind of opposition in France.
QUESTION (via interpreter): There have always been periods of strict order and authoritarian power in
Russia. But in the age of the Internet, can a country develop by restricting freedoms?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: It is impossible and we are not restricting the Internet. We have certainÖ You know, whatever
we do, someone tries to find something that goes against democratic principles, including the Internet. Are there any
restrictions in Russia? I donít believe so. Some of our opponents say there are unacceptable restrictions. What kind of
restrictions do we have? For example, we have banned the promotion of suicide, drugs and pedophilia. These are our
restrictions. Whatís wrong with that?
QUESTION (via interpreter): And homosexuality. It is not pedophilia, itís a different story.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thatís not true, we did not ban homosexuality. We banned the promotion of homosexuality among
minors. You see, these are two different things. In the United States, since we talked about it, homosexuality is
illegal in some states. We impose no criminal liability whatsoever. We banned only promoting homosexuality among
minors. It is our right to protect our children and we will do it.
QUESTION (via interpreter): We would like to talk about the end of your term in 2018. We would like to
talk about labour camps. We find such things surprising in the West. For example, Pussy Riot were sentenced to a term
in labour camps, and it wasnít just an ordinary prison. Will you close those camps by the end of your term?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: These are not camps. These are places where the inmatesí freedom is limited but they can live
a more or less normal life. These are not prisons where people are not allowed to work.
Prisons where people canít even work is the worst punishment you can think of. And I donít think we should put all
convicts in such facilities where people are deprived of their freedom. I think it is much worse than what you are
QUESTION (via interpreter): Who convinced you that you are carrying out a special mission for
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why do you think that I believe Iím carrying out a special mission? I have the trust of my
voters. Over 63% of Russian citizens voted for me. I believe I hold a national mandate to carry out domestic and
foreign policy, and I will fulfil my obligations under this mandate.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Do you have a role model in the Russian history? Are you guided by Soviet
or Russian politics?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I have great love and respect for Russian history and culture. But the world is changing and
Russia is too. Russia is part of the modern world, not the world of the past but the modern world. And I believe it has
an even greater future than some other countries that canít take care of their young people, of the new generations, of
their children, and believe that they can just let things slide.
QUESTION (via interpreter): And the last question, Mr President. In 2013, Forbes rated you as the most
powerful person in the world. Were you flattered by this title?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, Iím an adult and I know what power means in the modern world. In the modern world,
power is mainly defined by such factors as the economy, defence and cultural influence. I believe that in terms of
defence, Russia is without any doubt one of the leaders because we are a nuclear power and our nuclear weapons are
perhaps the best in the world.
With regard to cultural influence, we are proud of the Russian culture Ė literature, the arts and so on.
As for the economy, we are aware that we still have a lot to do before we reach the top. Although lately, we have
made major strides forward and are now the fifth largest economy in the world. It is a success but we can do more.
QUESTION (via interpreter): We donít know yet how Vladimir Putinís era will go down in history. What
would you like to be remembered for? And would you like to be seen as a democrat or an authoritarian leader?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like to be remembered as a person who did his best for the happiness and prosperity
of his country and his people.
QUESTION (via interpreter): Thank you very much. Have a good trip to France, Mr President.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Thank you.